Teach­ers’ men­tal health de­clin­ing amid job stress

Iran Daily - - Society -

A long list of anx­i­eties — around school bud­get cuts, bul­ly­ing, coarse po­lit­i­cal dis­course and the shaky sta­tus of im­mi­grant stu­dents — is tak­ing a toll on US teach­ers, a new sur­vey showed, with more ed­u­ca­tors now say­ing their men­tal health is suf­fer­ing than just two years ear­lier.

More than half of the ed­u­ca­tors point out their men­tal health is an is­sue: 58 per­cent said their men­tal health was ‘not good’ for seven or more of the pre­vi­ous 30 days. A sim­i­lar sur­vey in 2015 found just 34 per­cent of re­spon­dents felt the same, us­ato­day.com re­ported.

The find­ings are be­ing re­leased by the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers and the Badass Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a na­tional grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on so­cial jus­tice.

Randi Wein­garten, pres­i­dent of the teach­ers’ fed­er­a­tion, said that over the past few years, teach­ers have ac­tu­ally swapped one kind of stress — an in­tense na­tional fo­cus on stan­dard­ized skills tests — for another.

Af­ter pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act in 2015, Wein­garten said, many ob­servers be­lieved that ed­u­ca­tor stress would ease. “You would have ex­pected the num­bers to go down, not up,” she said.

But stress over the coarse­ness of our po­lit­i­cal de­bate, she said, has be­come a big dilemma for schools, she said.

“This no­tion that be­ing coarse and tough and en­abling hate is OK is highly, highly, highly dis­rup­tive and prob­lem­atic in schools and goes com­pletely against what par­ents and teach­ers know is ab­so­lutely im­por­tant for kids, which is a safe and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Wein­garten said in an in­ter­view.

The sur­vey of nearly 5,000 ed­u­ca­tors, most of them re­spond­ing on­line, found that the vast ma­jor­ity — 86 per­cent — did not feel re­spected by Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy Devos, who has made ex­pand­ing pri­vate — and char­ter-school choice a cen­ter­piece of her ca­reer.

Wein­garten said the neg­a­tive find­ings on Devos, a Michi­gan bil­lion­aire and Repub­li­can mega-donor who has cham­pi­oned school choice, are telling.

“Peo­ple get what she’s do­ing — and she’s do­ing the same thing na­tion­ally as she tried to do in Michi­gan ... which is to com­pletely dis­rupt pub­lic school­ing, find ways to un­der­mine it, de­fund it, desta­bi­lize it, at the same time ac­tively pro­mot­ing pri­vate al­ter­na­tives, even though the pri­vate al­ter­na­tives don’t have a good track record,” she said.

Wein­garten also crit­i­cized Devos for not step­ping in more force­fully, as past ad­min­is­tra­tions have done, to help ed­u­ca­tors af­ter re­cent nat­u­ral and man-made dis­as­ters.

“That has never hap­pened with this ad­min­is­tra­tion: Not af­ter Char­lottesville, not af­ter the hur­ri­canes, not af­ter the fires, not af­ter Las Ve­gas. It has never hap­pened (with Devos). In­stead, she spends the time sit­ting with (Repub­li­can poll­ster) Frank Luntz try­ing to fig­ure out how to sell vouch­ers.”

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